If you know me at any level, you'll know I adore dogs. All dogs. I melt at the wag of their tail. My friend Kat asked me to take a formal family portrait of her and her pup, Maeby, and I wouldn't have turned down the opportunity if you payed me. It only took a few treats to get Maeby looking just as sharp as her momma.
It's almost been a year since I've updated this blog, huh?
Strange, it doesn't feel like that much time has passed... and yet, over the past ten months or so, so much has happened. Relationships have grown, new friends have entered my life and loved ones have gone, and, as always, I've been slaving away in the kitchen. Not that it's a bad thing; I love my day job, spending an average of eleven hours a day prepping, cooking, running like mad throughout the back-of-house and spouting gibberish as we crank out seemingly endless plates of French and Italian cuisine. I always thought cooking was a temporary gig, something to get me by until I found my lucky break, but I've realized in this past year that cooking is my only ideal day job. At least until I can spend more time shooting. Of course, photography and writing will always be my passions, but I think being a line cook is making its way up there as well.
And so, I say "Thank You" to my chef, Aaron. You took a chance on me in your kitchen, and have taught me an unfathomable amount of information and appreciation for cooking, food, and the chef life. This photo is from a shoot we had in May for a Mother's Day promotion.
Oh, and I promise, I will try and update the blog more often. With the sunshine and warm weather, these days off have provided many opportunities for adventure and distraction.
This past Sunday I was not only lucky enough to get an extra day off, but had the honor to photograph my friend Dan's new band Ingravesco at their debut show in Westland, MI. They are brutal as all hell, and to hear Dan scream like that was enough to make your skin crawl. If you're a fan of metal, deathcore, etc., I highly suggest you listen to them as soon as possible.
Note: So I've been slacking... it's surprising that I haven't posted in nearly two months, but I haven't been shooting much lately. I've been focusing more on my day job as a chef and my semi-new romantic relationship, as well as personal projects, both photography related and otherwise. Finding free time isn't terribly difficult, but allotting time to photograph new subjects and update on a regular basis have proven to be a challenge. Which, in all honesty, was the driving force for me to create this blog, to inspire myself and better my people skills while making interesting images. Long story short, I'm going to try and get better at this.
This past weekend, I was fortunate to photograph the first day of Breakaway Music Festival here in Grand Rapids, although a mistake with my media credentials prevented me from taking some really amazing photos, but that's another story.
A two-day festival with varying performers in the EDM and hip-hop realms (like Waka Flocka Flame, RL Grime, Zedd, and Travis Scott), Breakaway is also being hosted in Columbus, OH and Charlotte, NC this year.
Not being very knowledgeable of the artists featured here in GR, I did my research on Friday's performers prior to the show. Amongst the trap and dubstep producers and DJs, one stood out to me: 24hrs. I'm not great at describing his genre too well, but his chill, bass-heavy beats partnered with his electronically-altered voice makes for some good vibes. Take a listen yourself. After his performance, he walked around the festival grounds and taking photos with fans and chatting with us; easily one of the best performances of the day.
Today is the last day of my internship writing for The Rapidian... this summer has been flying by! My final piece during this internship (but certainly not the end of my journalistic ventures) is a spotlight on an amazing individual: Deavondre.
I met Deavondre back in 2013, when I wrote an article for the Grand Valley State University paper The Lanthorn covering his performance there, though that article and most of my memory of it are long gone. A month or so ago, while aimlessly scrolling through Facebook, I came across Deavondre again, this time in an ad for a weekly, drop-in hip-hop dance class he was teaching in Grand Rapids. I figured it would make a good piece, and chatted with him for a bit before dropping in on his class.
Talking with Deavondre is incredible. No exaggeration, I have met very few people that are as personable, friendly, and inspiring as he is. He told me about his past, present, and future without hesitation, always turning a negative experience into a positive opportunity. He could have charged me for a 45-minute motivational seminar then, and I gladly would have paid. Did I mention he owns his own company at 23, teaches weekly classes, and still has time for his 10 month-old son?
You can read my article about Deavondre and learn more about his prospects in my article. I really hope we can stay in touch, and I have no doubt he'll meet all his goals with a smile on his face.
Last week, my friends new and old in Parlor Voice asked me if I could take some portraits for an insert for their next album. Of course I said yes! These boys really do rock.
Check out their past releases here!
I've grown lazy with these posts. I do have days off, but they are filled with so many things, I hate to say that roaming and photographing have taken a back seat to other responsibilities. I hope to change that soon!
Yesterday, I took the day off to photograph a show at The Pyramid Scheme in downtown GR. That place is easily my favorite bar and venue in West Michigan (though they almost lost me when they cancelled Half-Off Tuesdays a couple years ago...). The main act was Pokey LaFarge, with the South City Three and a couple other musicians backing him up. I was covering the show for my summer internship at The Rapidian, a local online news hub for Grand Rapids. I've always loved writing and reporting, and wrote for the high school paper and Grand Valley State University's publication The Lanthorn for a year before my passions for journalism dimmed a bit through college. Having been out and on my own, paving my own way and having been in the professional food world for almost a year now, I wanted to pick up writing and reporting again. The folks at The Rapidian accepted my application as their summer intern, and for the past few weeks, I've been writing and photographing various events under arts and entertainment. While the internship on top of my cooking job adds up to 60+hrs/week, I'm loving it, and surprisingly managing my time well enough to make it work (haha).
Pokey is a St. Louis artist who's music is hard to describe, as he told me it would be before the show. I hear it as a beautiful blend of jazz, western swing, classic R&B, honkey tonk, and other southern/midwestern influences from the 40's through the 60's. While I may have been one of the youngest people at the show, I was entranced as everyone else in the venue was, tapping our toes or doing a little dance in place. His entire set was a blast, filled with energy and an overwhelming sensation of fun. I'm very glad I got the opportunity to talk with Pokey, see him perform, and be able to write a preview for the show (which you can read here).
Last weekend, I finally attended BLED FEST, an annual music festival in Howell, MI, after years of not being able to go. NO REGRETS. The day was filled with seeing friends from all over the state and listening and dancing to some incredible musical performances. One such act was hip-hop artist Jahshua Smith.
Jahshua's bandcamp bio reads, "Smith's conscious, sociopolitical lyrics about his experiences in Detroit hit just as hard as his fly, cocksure rhymes," and after seeing him perform with his backing band, cleverly named "The Race Card," I can confirm the songs hit hard.
After his set and a few others, I checked out a new feature to the festival this year: panel discussions, covering issues such as building and maintaining a healthy and progressive DIY community and supporting safe spaces and those that frequent them. One discussion I made it to was "Representation in Music," with panelists including Julia Steiner of Ratboys, Koji, Stefanie Haapala, and Jahshua, brought up talks about what artists and audience members alike can do to support their music scene, take accountability and make changes when problems occur in the community, and how to use music to make a positive impact in the community.
Music, both on a large commercial scale or within small DIY communities, can bring the energy and power to overcome negativity and hate throughout the world, and it takes a lot of teamwork and effort to make change happen. As Jahshua said toward the end of the panel, "Talk is cheap, and actions go much longer than words." It was great to meet you, man, and I can't wait to see you perform again.
I can't believe it's been nearly a month since I've posted a portrait here... life and work have consumed so much of my free time, I never realize how quickly it passes by.
On my most recent day off, my friend Andrea and I went shooting around Grand Rapids after meeting up for some tacos and a couple drinks. We were drawn to Ah-Nab-Awen Park where a ton of people were gathering; it turns out the park is this summer's location for Tuesday Swing!
Every summer, the Grand Rapids Original Swing Society hosts weekly swing dancing sessions and lessons that are free for everyone and attended by folks of all levels of experience. While I'm not much of a dancer, it was a blast watching so many people showing off their moves and having a ball. Throughout the evening, couples changed and swapped partners, and this particular couple seemed thrilled to be a part of it all.
Chris and I haven't hung out in a couple years, for various reasons, but I had the pleasure to photograph and chill with him for a bit this past week when the weather was still warm and sunny (as I type this, it is 48deg and rainy). We caught up, and talked about all aspects of our lives and what we've been doing the past few years. When I was in college, Chris was always the one to get people together at a party, get them dancing, and make absolutely certain it was a good night. While we don't all party as much anymore, he's still the hype man, and I hope we can hang out again soon.
It was great to see you, man. Good luck at Davenport this year, and congratulations!
A little over a week ago, I had the pleasure of enjoying a rare mini vacation in Chicago for a few days. I don't know why I'm not there more often (besides having very little free time); I love the huge city, the diversity that Grand Rapids can only dream of offering, and the many friends I get to see and make while there. One of those friends is Victoria.
We met in my freshman year at Grand Valley State University after she recognized most the bands on the patches stitched into my jeans while walking on campus. We share a lot of similar interests, including but not limited to punk music and Magic the Gathering, and it was awesome to chill with her then, whether on campus, in local coffee shops, or at house shows. While the (inevitable) hangovers prevented us from hanging out more last weekend, it was great to catch up for a day. \m/
I was feeling a bit under the weather today, so I decided to lay low, spend the day at a cafe and get some editing done. Jess met up with me and we hung out a while before heading home, and she was happy to help me out with this portrait project.
Jess and I have known each other since high school, a.k.a. the days of MySpace and post-hardcore. We both share a love of photography, and went through the photo program at Grand Valley State University together. Today, she told me about her many recent photo-related ventures, and her interest in creating contact prints using the we-plate collodion process (a photographic technique over 150 years old); I'm very excited to see how they turn out.
You can check out some of Jess' past work here.
This image was the from first house show I've photographed in months. I have been attending and photographing house shows and local concerts in Grand Rapids for the past four years, however my busy schedule has kept me away for a while. These shows were all I looked forward to: seeing friends, making new ones, and listening to some incredible musicians from around the world, all within a tiny basement, warehouse, living room, etc.
I finally got a day off to see my good friends in Moses perform alongside two other amazing bands, Reptilian (Kalamazoo, MI) and Vasudeva (New Jersey) at Witch House, a house venue in Eastown of Grand Rapids. I've had the pleasure of seeing all these acts perform multiple times, and they never fail to put on an outstanding show. I can't explain how good it felt to be back in this loud, ecstatic environment again, if only for the night.
Anthony is an unbelievable artist, and one of my closest and oldest friends. I can't begin to count how many nights we've spent hanging out and creating things. We lived together a few years ago, moved away, and now live within blocks of our old house. It was good to see you again, man, and thanks for introducing me to your new bunny-child, Falafel!
You can check out Anthony's art on Instagram and Behance
This image was taken just over two years ago, in either December 2015 or January '16 (I really need to date my film after shooting). The reason I'm posting it now is because it is one of 36 photos on the first roll of film developed in my own home! Today, I blacked out my closet and regulated the kitchen sink temperature for some DIY development, and the first roll, Ilford HP5 400 35mm, was a success!
Pictured is Sam at Brooks Brewing back home in Sterling Heights. Sam and I met in eighth grade, and he's still one of the most badass people I've ever known. We don't talk much anymore due to distance, work, life, etc., but I hope to see him soon and catch up over a game of MtG.
We had just finished making burritos and I was blasting merengue right before this photo was taken. Kyle and I have been friends for a few years now (though I don't entirely remember how we met), and living together the past four months or so has been rad.
Austen and I both had the day off today, and with all the snow melted, we went shooting around Midtown Grand Rapids for the first time in possibly years. Austen was one of the first people I met in the beginning of my undergrad photography studies, and has become a very close friend as well as an amazing artist. We talked about many things today, and thus my positivity levels have skyrocketed.
You can check out some of Austen's work here.
I met Pete today at an anti-Trump rally in downtown Grand Rapids. In between chants of "Not my president" and "This is what democracy looks like," Pete took a turn at addressing the hundred or so people who gathered today to show our opposition and/or general distaste of the 45th President of the United States. He passionately explained that, above all else, we must stand with our fellow human beings - immigrants, refugees, citizens, or otherwise - because at the root of it all, we are all connected. We are all one.
Pete and I talked for a little while before marching to Calder Plaza. I asked him what he thought the next step was to solve the many problems our country is facing, and, reiterating his position of global connectivity, said "We need to communicate, not only as citizens, but as people." We must work together, around the world, towards peace and understanding. I agree.
I've known Spencer since my first week of college, and nearly six years later, he is still one of the greatest people I've ever known. Today began an incredibly rare four-day weekend for me, and sharing the glorious 55deg morning with him over coffee did wonders for my physical and mental well-being. Thanks, dude.
While my creative gears never seem to stop turning, finding time to produce new work amongst sociopolitical turmoil, a new job, and freelance ventures has seemed impossible this year. However, I believe I've found a solution to this roadblock.
Days Off will be my ever-growing collection of portraits taken during the precious day or two I have open each week. Whether it be a friend, stranger, family member, coworker, colleague, or otherwise, a new face shall be in front of my lens on my days off. With this, I hope to improve my consistency in creating images and provide a glimpse into the lives of a mere fraction of our global family.
This project will undoubtedly evolve as this year goes on, as many ideas do, and I am elated to see where it takes me.
My good friend Darien helped me kick off this series a couple days ago after we explored the Grand Rapids Art Museum. She dreams of visiting every art museum in the U.S. I hope her dreams come true.